"Making history in the Chinese e-sports industry, global sportswear brand Nike signed a four-year exclusive apparel sponsorship deal with TJ Sports on February 28, 2019. The deal industry supply of sports apparels for China’s League of Legends Pro League (LPL), running until 2022. This deal includes supply of Nike branded clothes and shoes for all LPL players, coaches, referees, and team managers."
Making history in the Chinese e-sports industry, global sportswear brand Nike signed a four-year exclusive apparel sponsorship deal with TJ Sports on February 28, 2019. The deal industry supply of sports apparels for China’s League of Legends Pro League (LPL), running until 2022. This deal includes supply of Nike branded clothes and shoes for all LPL players, coaches, referees, and team managers.
Post the signing of the sponsorship deal, Nike unveiled its first LPL co-branded T-shirt to the public called ‘Gamer’. The brand unveiled all 16 LPL team uniforms, featuring a general “wide V style” with the Nike Swoosh and LPL logo in September. It also released an LPL co-branded streetwear apparel collection, including t-shirts, hoodies, and shoes.
Li-Ning stays away from e-sports sponsorship
Unlike Nike, Chinese sportswear brand Li-Ning has not shown any interest in sponsoring esports. The brand first entered the esports domain in October 2018 when it sponsored the Chinese esports organisation Edward Gaming’s (EDG) League of Legends team. The deal ended after Nike and LPL announced their sponsorship. In the next couple of months following the deal, Li-Ning sponsored multiple esports teams including Newbee, OG Happy, Hero, YTG, RNG’s Dota 2 team, and even the South Korean esports organisation Team Griffin, providing not only the team jerseys but also exclusive joint apparel and footwear lines.
Li-Ning also indirectly owns an LPL team called LNG Esports which was acquired by Viva China Sports in January. Viva China Sports is a sports subsidiary of Viva China Holdings Ltd., which is partly owned by Chinese entrepreneur and the founder of Li-Ning, Li Ning.
Competition for apparel sponsorship heats up
Nike and Li-Ning have both invested large amounts of capital in Esports. Nike has signed an apparel sponsorship with LPL valued at¥50M ($7.48M)a year, including cash and equivalent products. However, despite the financial terms of multiple undisclosed sponsorships and the acquisition of Snake Esports, the cost of building LNG Esports’ home venue for L-Ning is as high as is ¥30M ($4.36M).
Additionally, due to the exclusive apparel sponsorship between Nike and LPL, Li-Ning had no rights to provide team jerseys for LNG Esports, or sponsor any LPL teams. In order to deal with this issue, the brand has started endorsing EDG’s League of Legends players.
Two days after Nike launched its “Nike X LPL” co-branded uniforms, Li-Ning and League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK) team Team Griffin unveiled their co-branded team jerseys for the 2019 LoL World Championship. These jersey have Griffin’s sponsor logos and parent company STILL8’s logo printed on them.
Similarly, soon after Nike and LPL launched their first co-branded Gamer T-shirt, Li-Ning responded, by designing its esports apparel line under a general name: “中国选手” [English terms: Chinese Professional Player]. The company, which owns esports organisaation LNG Esports and sponsors multiple esports organisations and players, is focusing on the players.
On the other hand, Nike more likely wants to investigate what kind of positive characteristics gamers have, and justify video gaming to the public in a way that is not characterised as a negative habit or seen as shameful. Thus both these companies are focusing on the core value of e-sports; albeit in different ways.